Central places in southern Germany

Some thirty years ago when Walter Christaller published Die zentralen Orte in Suddeutschland it brought mainly a negative response among his German countrymen in the field of geography with whom he was associated through his professional training. Not until after the Second World War did his work receive the attention it deserved, and then it came largely from Sweden, the United States, and elsewhere outside Germany. Now Christaller’s work is recognized as one of the classical statements of location theory, basic for understanding human settlement and economic activity, along with the works of Heinrich von Thiinen and Alfred Weber. Carlisle Baskin is to be thanked for bringing to English-speaking social scientists this first translation. It is an outgrowth of his doctoral dissertation in economics at the University of Virginia. Christaller wanted to find the principles of order or regularity with which the centers of trade and services in any large settled area were developed. He analyzed cost factors underlying the spatial pattern of tertiary economic activity in central places, where consumers are dispersed in villages and farms. His method was to put forward first a logically consistent theoretical frame; then, to examine the extent to which the realities of urban settlement in the southern German lands conform to theory. Christaller did not claim that his economic-geographical principles were inexorable laws; but he discounted explanations of the existence of town and cities in terms of favorable topographic sites and historical conditions, saying that it was accessibility to demand which explained their growth.

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